Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Accused killer described emotional wounds after war
by Diane Moca

MILWAUKEE -- As questions continue to swirl around what would motivate Benjamin Sebena to allegedly stalk and kill his wife Jennifer on Christmas Eve, the Wauwatosa Police Chief says issues related to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) were mentioned during officer interviews with the defendant.

In an informational video with graphic pictures released by the Elmbrook Church in Brookfield in 2010, Ben Sebena reveals anxieties he suffered after returning from two tours of duty in Iraq.

In the church video, Ben says he shared his painful memories to help other veterans.

"I've been to the dark places, and I want to help bring them to the light," he says after describing the day in 2005 when he was changed forever after he nearly lost his life and watched a friend die, one of 50 deaths of fellow soldiers he says he witnessed.

"A mortar round came down and dropped right behind him. It killed him instantly, and the rest of the schrapnel came and hit me," explained Ben. "I looked down at my knee, and my pants were soaked in blood. And I could see my knee cap. My arm is drooping off my body and holding on by a couple tendons."

In the church video, Ben describes his physical struggle to walk again and the emotional difficulties he faced after the attack -- even when he was attending church back at home.

"I had to sit in the back of the pews by the concrete pillars. With my hypervigilance, I always had to sit with my back to something," he noted.

That fear, and other anxieties Ben mentions in the video such as avoiding crowds, are listed as symptoms of PTSD on the website for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"These symptoms are common, but for most, the symptoms diminish over one to three months after the event," explained Shawn Cahill, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Associate Professor of Psychology.

The educator says those exposed to a life-threatening event who don't get better within a few months need specific psychotherapy or medication to cope.

"For most people who receive these treatments, the memories don't trigger these intense feelings as often or in an unwanted or destructive way," he noted.

Cahill said without treatment, PTSD may cause depression, panic disorder and other problems.

"We have some evidence that the likelihood of people with PTSD engaging in violent behavior is increased over people without PTSD," explained Cahill.

The professor said he does not know if Benjamin Sebena suffered from PTSD or if he sought any treatment.

He said the Department of Defense and Veterans Administration are spending millions of dollars on research to diagnose and treat the disorder.